USSD war: Banks unblock MTN, reconnect telco to banking channels


By Ogaga Ariemu, Abuja

Following the quick intervention of Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Pantami, Banks have restored MTN’s USSD services across platforms.

This was contained in a tweet made on Sunday by Dr Pantami, notifying subscribers that USSD tussle has been restored on Sunday morning.

In his words, “the services have been restored since early morning, today.”

Recall that during the weekend Commercial Banks disconnected MTN customers from banking channels including the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data and banking apps.

Acting to resolve the issue, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, assured citizens that it will be resolved earnest in his tweet issued on Saturday.

According to feedback received by NewsDirect from subscribers on Sunday, majority confirmed that they can now recharge their MTN lines on USSD.

A resident of Federal Capital Territory, Mr Dennis Nwafor hinted that he can now recharge his MTN through USSD.

Similarly, Aisha Idris, confirmed that she recently used USSD to recharge her MTN line.

Earlier, MTN customers complained on Friday about being unable to recharge their MTN lines using USSD and other banking channels like the bank apps.

Customers were also unable to do banking transactions on MTN lines through USSD.

According to a source, this was not the doing of MTN but the banks who had refused to give any formal communication prior to the disconnection.

The source said, “Please note that MTN didn’t cut off customers and has no hand in this. This is strictly the banks acting on their own.

“We woke up this morning to see that MTN customers were cut off from USSD services overnight. This has come as a surprise as there was no formal communication from the banks to their customers prior to their taking this action.”

The source disclosed that MTN had reduced the banks’ commission from an average of 3.5 per cent to 2.5 per cent which predicated the actions of the banks.

According to the source, the reduction is standard because the volumes compensate for the reduction, adding that the contract with convenience channel partners and aggregators through which they were indirectly connected to the banks allowed this.

The source said, “The banks wrote back to the aggregators to revert back to the old commission, otherwise, they would block MTN airtime in all their channels.

“The channels were blocked midnight leaving our customers stranded. Interesting that the bank Managing Directors met and quickly took a decision. Subscribers to telecommunications are being denied services by the banks even when they have money in their accounts.”

The source noted that Zenith bank, which was connected directly to MTN and had their earnings at 2.70 per cent, was the only bank that had not blocked the telco.

However, banks on MOD that had an uplift in their commission from 2.0 per cent to 2.75 per cent have blocked services, according to him. Banks with direct connections to the telco through MOD got a commission uplift.

According to the source, the banks were unwilling to pay the cost of the USSD channel and were okay with cutting off subscribers in order to protect their profits.

The source added, “This only has to do with preservation of bank profits, which are already substantial and growing despite the wider economic conditions.

“The government needs to step in and deal with this once and for all. Nigerian banks need to stop their tyrannical posture.”

Recall that on Tuesday 16th March, NewsDirect reported that Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN), Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), in conjunction with Telcos stakeholders signed agreement to fix USSD charges at 6.78 in a bid to resolve disagreement between telcos and Deposit Banks.